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Tarkastad, Eastern Cape

Tarkastad, Eastern Cape

Tarkastad, Eastern Cape, was settled in the early 1800’s when the Dutch farmers who were looking for land heard the enthusiastic feedback from hunting parties, about the mountain beauty, excellent grazing and plentiful waters.

For a time, two Great Trek leaders, Andries Potgieter and Piet Retief, farmed here, so great was the attraction of the area, dominated by the twin mountain peaks of Martha and Mary, as they are still known. After the Dutch farmers decided to accompany their leaders on the Great Trek, the English 1820 settlers moved in, so, as one would expect, the town is steeped in history.

Tarkastad retains a lot of its former charm and architectural integrity, particularly the old watermills, iron water hydrants, lamp standards, inns and churches. Tarka is also well known for its roses and gardens overflow with these in the blooming period. Autumn is stunning, with thousands of poplar trees turning to gold.

Scientists have stated that Tarkastad has one of the healthiest climates in the world. Winters are cold with frequent snowfalls on high lying mountain tops, while summers are hot and dry.

The prosperity of the community is still based on agriculture – the farming of Merino sheep, cattle and game, as well as fruit and vegetables being the mainstay.

Things to do

Nestled on the edge of the Winterberg range, the Tsolwana Nature Reserve is about 30 km south-east of Tarkastad and is run by Eastern Cape Parks. This reserve offers some of the best game viewing opportunities in the Eastern Cape.

The scenic Commando Drift Nature Reserve, is ideal for fishermen, hikers and others who just want to relax in nature is just 40km away.

Thrift Dam is the most easterly and largest of the new trout fisheries. It is a legend amongst fly fishers, challenging but very rewarding and not far from town.

The myriad of San rock art paintings in the district depict game in abundance and today a wide variety still abound in large numbers.

Hiking is an increasingly popular pastime in this magnificent mountain scenery. There are many hikes from which to choose, short, long, easy or difficult. The Tarka / Toorberg Trail (37 km) offers an excellent weekend hike with overnight farm accommodation. You can also climb Martha and Mary, or walk to Fenella Falls.

Tarkastad is on the R61 between Cradock and Queenstown and only three hours from Port Elizabeth.

For more information on the Eastern Cape, visit ShowMe Eastern Cape